Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and Onlays

When a tooth is damaged, there are a variety of procedures that can be carried out to fix the issue. One such treatment is known as dental inlays and onlays. While such a process is fairly common, not too many people are aware of the details involved with it.

So, when they are informed that they have to undergo such a procedure, they may feel unsure or nervous. If you are looking to calm your fears, you will find all of the information that you need to know about this process:

Inlays and Onlays: A Description

The first thing that you will need to be aware of is just what these terms mean. While they are often used together, they each describe a separate process. Here are the most important facts that you need to know about each procedure…

An inlay is often used to fix the larger chewing surface of a tooth near the back of your mouth. It can also be prescribed when a cavity is much too big for a traditional filling to work. As the name suggests, inlays sit within a tooth.

In many ways, an onlay can be rather similar to the above remedy. However, onlays are often used to cover a larger surface area than inlays. Not only can these restorations fit inside your tooth but they can also fit over them. So, they can be used to cover the cusps of your teeth as well.

It is a dentist that will determine whether an inlay or an onlay is the best course of action for you. He or she will examine the extent of the damage and then make a decision based on this assessment.

Inlays and Onlays: A Description

When are Inlays or Onlays Necessary?

When are Inlays or Onlays Necessary?

There are a few different instances in which a dentist may prescribe an inlay or onlay for you. These are as follows:

Chipped tooth: when a tooth is chipped, a filling will not be of any use. To fix such an issue, the dentist needs to cover the tooth to prevent it from being damaged further. In this case, an inlay or onlay can also improve the appearance of the damaged tooth.

Severe tooth decay: if the tooth decay is minor, then a filling is the most obvious solution. However, if the decay is significant and quite a bit of damage has been done, the tooth requires further intervention. Here, an inlay or onlay can work to effectively cover it up.

The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

As mentioned, there are quite a number of different procedures that can be used to treat or improve a damaged tooth. So, why do dentists recommend inlays and onlays in many situations? Well, this is because these procedures have several benefits over certain other options.

To start with, inlays and onlays are more permanent than fillings. As you may have realised, fillings have a tendency to come loose after a few years, requiring you to visit the dentist once again. Inlays and onlays, on the other hand, have greater durability and will last for longer. In some instances, you can expect these restorative features to last up to thirty years!

There is also the fact that both inlays and onlays can work to strengthen the teeth. Since they are made of hardier material, they can act as a barrier to the damaged or brittle portion of a tooth. Thanks to this, there is a much less chance that the tooth will become more damaged or decayed.

There are circumstances where onlays and inlays are preferred to crowns as well. Understand, with crowns, the tooth needs to be removed and then replaced with an alternative. This can be time consuming and uncomfortable as well. With inlays and onlays, though, the original tooth is kept and even maintained and protected to a certain extent.

The Benefits of Inlays and Onlays

Types of Inlays and Onlays

Types of Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays vary in terms of the material used in each procedure. These days, there is more variety than ever, although some materials are utilised more often than others. Here are the top options available to you:

The most commonly used metal is gold and, in fact, has been used in such procedures for a number of years now. To this day, gold inlays and onlays are some of the strongest options around. This is why they tend to be used in the back of the mouth where the greatest chewing action takes place.

At the same time, there is no denying that gold can be a rather costly material as well. Still, the main reason that its use is decreasing is due to aesthetic purposes. As you can imagine gold and other metals are rather noticeable.

For those that are looking for a more natural result, porcelain inlays and onlays offer just that. The colour of this material can be matched to that of your tooth. So, people will not even know that they are there. These restorative features also tend to be highly stain resistant to boot.

Finally, there is composite resin. These, too, resemble natural teeth a lot more closely. As such, they are undetectable. The other benefit with composite inlays and onlays is that they can be bonded to your teeth within a single dental visit. However, these can be a bit high maintenance as you need to care for them properly if you don’t want them to become stained.

How to Prepare for an Inlay or Onlay

Prior to the procedure, your dentist will probably ask you a number of questions. This will be done to make certain that you are a good candidate for an inlay or onlay. Some of the queries that you may be asked may be related to:

Your current health

Previous diagnosis of any medical conditions

Prescription medication



Previous reactions to anaesthetic

It is important to answer these questions accurately so that your dentist will be fully aware of any issues that you may have. You should also inform your dentist if you are pregnant. He or she may choose another method for numbing your gums during the procedure.

You should also ask your dentist about any queries you may have regarding the procedure. It is your dentist that will be in the best possible position to answer all of these questions. If there are any special circumstances surrounding your particular case, they will be able to inform you.

How to Prepare for an Inlay or Onlay

The Inlay and Onlay Procedure

The Inlay and Onlay Procedure

In most instances, you will find that inlay and onlay procedures are carried out in two separate visits. This is because the dentist will need to take an impression of your damaged tooth and then send it to a lab. The lab will then construct an inlay or an onlay that is a perfect match to this.

There are some dentists that have such lab equipment in their office. If this is the case with your dentist, then you may be able to complete all the steps of the procedure within the same day.

Stage One
The dentist will inject a local anaesthetic into the gums near the damaged tooth.

He or she will then use a drill to remove the damaged portions of your teeth. The dentist may also need to file down the tooth to a certain extent. Doing so will make the inlay or onlay adhere to your tooth more easily.

The dentist will make an impression of this tooth and send it out to the lab.

He or she will place a temporary inlay or onlay until you can come in for the permanent replacement.

Stage Two
The dentist will remove the temporary filling that was placed during the last visit.

The dentist will then check to make sure that the inlay or onlay fits perfectly against your teeth. He or she will also try to identify if you will have any issues once the inlay or outlay has been placed.

If the fit is a match, the dentist will then use an adhesive to fit the inlay or outlay onto your existing tooth.

The dentist will then polish the inlay or outlay as well as the tooth to improve the overall appearance.

Each of these visits may take an hour or longer, depending on how simple or complex your particular case may be. You may find that the initial appointment may take a little longer since the mould may take a longer time to process.

What to Expect After the Procedure

Once the procedure has been completed, you may continue to feel some numbness around the treated area. This should subside within a few hours. Until the numbness goes away, your dentist may advise you to avoid food and drink. This can reduce the risk of you biting on your tongue or cheek due to the lack of feeling.

However, you should be able to go home shortly after the procedure is completed. It is also quite possible that you will be able to continue with your day as normal. If dental appointments are unpleasant for you in general, though, you may want to rest for a while.

Once the anaesthesia wears off, you may discover that your gum is a little tender. Your dentist may or may not prescribe over-the-counter medication, depending on the severity of the discomfort. Any soreness, though, should subside rather quickly.

Another thing that you may notice is that the area is more sensitive to hot and cold foods or drinks. This, too, should go away before too long. Nevertheless, it may take you some time to get used to the feeling of the inlay or the onlay being in your mouth.

What to Expect After the Procedure

Possible Side Effects

Possible Side Effects

For the most part, inlays and onlays are considered a rather minor procedure. Due to this, the risk of anything going wrong is incredibly low. Nevertheless, you should be aware of some of the issues that may take place once the procedure has been completed:

Severe pain in gums or teeth


Difficulty with biting or chewing


If any of these issues should present themselves, you should call your dentist immediately. It is possible that you are having an adverse reaction to the procedure. Or, it could simply be that the inlay or outlay wasn’t positioned properly. Regardless, it is important to speak with your dentist as quickly as possible to resolve the problem.

The Potential Complications of a Dental Inlay or Onlay

Even if you don’t experience any side effects of the procedure, you need to be aware that other issues may manifest. Once again, these are incredibly rare but it something that you will need to know about.

If you do have any allergies, you should mention this to your dentist beforehand. Nonetheless, it may be possible for you to experience an allergic reaction to the material that has been used for to create your inlay or outlay. If this should happen, the dentist will need to replace the material with something different.

If there is any injury or trauma to either your mouth or your gums, there is a chance that the inlay or outlay could be lost. The consequence of this is that the tooth and nerve endings will be exposed. As a result of that the food or bacteria could collect in this space and lead to an infection.

The Potential Complications of a Dental Inlay or Onlay

How to Care for Your Inlay or Outlay

How to Care for Your Inlay or Outlay

It is important to remember that an inlay or outlay needs to be cared for just like any other tooth. While it may be made from a material that is much stronger than your teeth, it can only protect your teeth so much. So, if you don’t follow proper oral hygiene, your tooth is at risk of further decay or damage.

Your dentist may inform you of certain food or lifestyle restrictions that you will need to follow to for a short period of time. To ensure that your inlay or outlay lasts for as long as possible, it is best to follow these guidelines properly.

This is all that you need to know regarding inlays and outlays. You should know be able to go in for the procedure and not have any concerns at all.